Best budget Bluetooth speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best budget wireless speakers you can buy in 2023.
Wireless (and often portable) Bluetooth speakers have always been a great addition to any music lover's kit bag, and a budget Bluetooth speaker option is a must for lazy days at the beach or more energetic mornings clearing storm debris from the drive. It's surprising what even a small outlay can buy you, too – some of these below will only set you back the price of a pizza!
How to choose the best Bluetooth speaker for you
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Aside from something that sounds good for the money, we advise a durable design and waterproofing at this end of the market. IPX7 and IP67 (the latter meaning that on top of waterproofing, the speaker is IP-rated against dust ingress) are good numbers to look out for – and we have listed each speaker's rating below. For the best portable Bluetooth speakers on a budget, these factors are essential.
Budget Bluetooth speakers can be small enough to fit in a coat pocket or big enough to fill a room with serious sound, so it's imperative that you also check the dimensions before clicking "buy" (don't worry, we've listed these below as well).
Whether you want full-on portability or a speaker to move occasionally from your bedroom to the kitchen, you're sure to find something here that you – and your current budget – can truly enjoy.
The JBL Charge 5 is even more durable and better sounding than the four Charges that came before it – and if you needed any more proof than its five-star review, it's a current What Hi-Fi? 2022 Award-winner. The Charge 5's predecessor carried an IPX7 rating, meaning it could handle being submerged in water to a depth of 1.5m, but the IP67-rated Charge 5 builds on that durability by also being fully dustproof. Want a speaker roughly the dimensions of a bottle of wine that'll charge your phone and sound great? You've found it.
Thanks in part to a new 10W tweeter and racetrack-shaped driver, the Charge 5 is currently as good a sound as you can get in a portable Bluetooth speaker design for under £200 ($200, AU$300). It boasts marginal improvements, both sonically and aesthetically, over its predecessors.
One day JBL may produce a Charge that can be outdone by a new and plucky rival, but rest assured, that has not happened with the rather splendid Charge 5.
Read the full review: JBL Charge 5
Given that the Flip 5 (listed, below) is a past What Hi-Fi? Award winner, it will come as little surprise to learn that the Flip 6 is another resoundingly five-star product. We might have thought we’d be advising JBL to rework the Flip by now – add a few more features, change it up a bit to keep up with the competition – but instead, we are left praising the sonic chops of a proposition that now offers extra durability (it is now IP67 water- and dust-proof, over the waterproof-only IPX7 Flip 5) as well as an extra ounce of space within its trademark zealous and musical presentation. Yes, it's still 'just' a Bluetooth speaker – but what a great-sounding Bluetooth speaker it is.
If you want more from the midrange and less from the treble, you can now tweak it thanks to a new EQ feature in the app, which adds significant value. For a nominal price hike over the launch price of the Flip 5, there’s certainly more detail here, too.
Read the full review: JBL Flip 6
Ultimate Ears has really made a splash in the Bluetooth speaker market with a number of colourful, fun-sounding and portable models on its books. This is the small but mightily impressive 2019-release Wonderboom 2 – and because of its age, there are plenty of deals out there.
Battery life is 13 hours and a full charge takes just under three, although take note here, it charges via microUSB rather than the newer USB-C. It's waterproof, sandproof, dustproof and is also designed to float, so it should withstand the most lively of pool parties. Playback is controlled over a Bluetooth connection, but note that there's no mic for hands-free calling.
Sonically, the Wonderboom 2 is an exciting listen, with impressive bass given its small dimensions. It packs in plenty of detail and there's a fine sense of attack to make it easily one of the best sounding Bluetooth speakers you can buy for the money.
Read the full review: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2
It’s hard to imagine a home decor, backpack or personal taste that the Tribit Audio Stormbox Micro couldn’t merge in with happily. It's the size of a stack of drinks coasters, it's IP67 rated, there's a useful rubberised strap across the back of it and you can pair two of them in stereo mode.
You'll be pleasantly surprised by the bass clout the Tribit is able to deliver. Although a speaker of such dimensions is obviously limited in terms of bass weight, it does remarkably well; close your eyes while listening and you’ll picture a bigger product.
If your budget maxes out at £50 ($60), the Tribit is a splendid option. Similarly, if you only have a small zip compartment in the top of your backpack for a sonic travel companion, this speaker is worthy of that space. Take note, Ultimate Ears: a little-known brand called Tribit Audio produced a budget belter of a Bluetooth speaker.
Read the full review: Tribit Audio Stormbox Micro
The question of which voice assistant to bring into your home is largely a personal one. But by updating its most popular and affordable Echo device with this degree of skill, Amazon has laid down the most compelling case yet for choosing Alexa. Regardless of the Marmite aesthetic (yes, it looks like a little Magic 8-Ball) Alexa's responses are slightly quicker, the answers are much (much) clearer, and the sonic performance is better than ever.
It still needs to be plugged in to work (don't expect to take it hiking) but Amazon’s entry-level Bluetooth and wi-fi smart device has come a long way in terms of sound quality since the arrival of the first and second Dots – so much so, you could say Amazon has come a 'full circle’ in the smart speaker arena.
Read the full review: Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation)
If you like the idea of a smart assistant combined with a simple music speaker, it’s hard to argue against the Amazon Echo Dot. For not a lot of money, you get a whole load of smart voice functionality and decent sound with this slightly older (and thus, quite heavily discounted!) third-generation model.
It works well on its own or can be nicely integrated into myriad other smart home and AV products, bringing voice control and smart features just a command away. Sound quality is good too, making it even easier to recommend.
Read the full review: Amazon Echo Dot (3rd generation)
The diminutive, soap on a rope-styled Go 3 features Bluetooth 5.1 instead of 4.1 plus a maximum power output of 4.2W, up from 3W in the Go 2 (listed below). The one specification that hasn’t changed is the Go 3's stamina. It takes 2.5 hours to charge fully, and you can still only get five hours of playtime from it from a single charge.
If you can live with this, there's much to celebrate in the sound department at the level. The extra power and overhauled design have resulted in some solid sonic enhancements, and aesthetically it's perhaps even cuter than the original. We gave this iteration five stars for sound. Will five hours get you through a day at the beach or a lazy picnic in the park though? Probably best to take a wireless charger.
Read the full review: JBL Go 3
If all you want is a portable Bluetooth speaker that sounds as good as £100 can buy, you’ll struggle to better the Flip 5 or Flip 6 (above). Truly, JBL’s Flip offering sounds great for the price. If you don’t mind the lack of aux-in port or inbuilt microphone (as seen in the Flip 4) or the inability to partner it with older JBL speakers (the PartyBoost function is not backwards compatible with Connect+ enabled speakers, like the JBL Charge 4), it’s an excellent proposition for the money.
It may be low on added extras, but the Flip 5 gets away with it. Once you're actually listening to it, JBL's latest Flip easily betters the competition at the price – even the award-winner. The solid sonic chops JBL has managed to deliver at this level simply cannot be denied – which is why we gave it a What Hi-Fi? Award last year.
Read the full review: JBL Flip 5
How we test Bluetooth speakers
At What Hi-Fi?, we independently review hundreds of products every year, including the latest budget Bluetooth speakers hitting the market from JBL, Bose, Bang & Olufsen, Ultimate Ears and other renowned brands, plus propositions from lesser-known brands that catch our eye. So how do we come to our review verdicts – and most importantly, why should you trust them?
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in the UK where our dedicated team of expert reviewers completes testing on every product that comes our way. Of course, with portability a priority for budget Bluetooth speakers, we make sure we spend several days putting the product through its paces in real-life, on-the-fly environments too.
We have price-appropriate competitors and class leaders (often our benchmark What Hi-Fi? Award winners) constantly on hand to compare and contrast every product we review with similarly priced ones, and we take considerable time to ensure every aspect of a product is tested thoroughly, from its performance to its battery life to its weatherproofness.
All verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than a single reviewer, too, helping to ensure consistency and avoid individual subjectivity too.